So if you’re a football club playing in the 10th tier of English football and you win the league title finishing on 91 points, 12 points ahead of the second place team, you win 29 of your 36 matches, achieved an 81% win record, you would think you would be promoted up to the 9th tier the following season wouldn’t you?
No, wrong, because this team were actually relegated down to the 11th tier despite achieving all of those brilliant things. This is the story of Worcester Park.
Watch a video of YouTube Channel NLYT talking through what happened below or scroll on to read more…
The club found in 1921 a part of a wider athletics club called Worcester Park Athletics Club, they’ve played at their home Skinners Field since their formation that year. The Surrey side’s ground is very basic, has no floodlights, no seating, there is not enough car parking spaces for the level and these regulations have been a lot tighter in the last couple of years. Clubs up until last season have been able to have below the regulations that are required for their ground but were still able to carry on in that league. But now they have been made a lot harsher and Worcester Park are one of the many victims of this.
Despite their storming season last season in the Combined Counties Division One where they raced to the title, they are not allowed to rightfully be promoted, those players have earned that promotion quite emphatically, to get 91 points in 36 games is absolutely crazy. But instead, they’re not even being allowed to stay in the 10th tier because of those regulations. They’ve been relegated to the 11th tier just to add insult to the injury.
Back in the 2015/16 season, all the clubs in the 10th tier level were told of all the different upgrades that they have to make to their grounds. It was actually enforced recently, at the start of the 2017/18 season clubs were made aware that if they didn’t comply with these new rules, then they would be relegated.
Worcester Park were aware of what needed to be met but essentially chose not to meet them. The ground they play on is also used for cricket, so installing floodlights around the pitch would make it awkward to play cricket. According to a spokesperson, “The amount of money that would be needed to be spent on the ground would totally prohibit cricket being played. Another requirement is a 100 capacity stand. I can’t remember the last time we had 100 people in the club watching football let alone sitting down.
This is similar to what happened at North Ferriby United a couple of seasons ago. They were in the National League, had to make a number of upgrades, if they didn’t then they knew they would be relegated. But because of the investment needed to make those changes and with the crowds being low anyway, they pretty much accepted relegation before the season began.
Go back to Worcester Park, they are an amateur club playing in a semi-professional league. Their players still pay subs to play. However others in their league get paid to play. It shows they are a club that don’t have a lot of finance behind them, so how can they afford ground upgrades.
The spokesperson again added, “We’re not prepared to spend about £40,000 or £50,000 because we don’t have the income streams to support that section”.
Another option would be for them to move to another ground, they did look but said it ‘wasn’t workable’ as they wanted it to be in the same place as it’s at an athletics club.
Three other teams in the Combined Counties League Division One were also relegated to the 11th tier for the same reason.The team that finished bottom of the league on 17 points avoided the drop. Crazy.
It opens up a debate, should ground grading issues have that much of an impact? To the point where the whole league season is invalidated.